Tuesday, March 11, 2008
From lawyer to naturalist, Ian Plant is now living the dreamThis Article Features Photo Zoom
"Make an effort to find your own special places that no one has photographed before," Plant points out. "And, as always, you must constantly strive to push the envelope in your photography—to go 'extreme' in trying to find new angles and perspectives, even in these remote places."
The Outdoor Experience
Plant's photography treks include a combination of pre-planning and spontaneity. "For landscape work, I scout a location before the magic hour of light begins, looking for powerful compositional elements such as shapes, colors and foreground to background progression," he says. "From there I wait, adjusting my composition, depending on what's happening in the sky or with the light on the landscape."
For wildlife, Plant's approach remains flexible, but he still uses some advance planning: "I strive to photograph wildlife in the same dramatic light that I seek for my landscape photos. Knowing about the animal and its behaviors also can help you be in the right position for the magic hour."
Revisiting a location or scene is something Plant strongly recommends, regardless of whether photographing from the road or in the wilderness.
Plant does come across scenes when the composition jumps right out and becomes obvious. "More often than not, however, I struggle to find what I want," he says. "Sometimes the struggle leads to an epiphany and a great image ensues. Sometimes it doesn't. I'll often go back to a location where I previously failed and found something I liked. As the old saying goes, 'Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you'. I've been eaten by bear more times than I care to count."
Making The Image Unique
In crafting his compositions, Plant tries to view the elements of the scene as abstractions: "I look for repeating shapes, lines and forms. I'm also very much into 'atmospherics'—I love compositions where something interesting is happening with clouds in the sky or with the weather, such as mist. Along with unique lighting, I'm looking to find compositions that create a mood. Where both mood and composition come together, that's where I want to be."
I love compositions where something interesting is happening with clouds in the sky or with the weather, such as mist. Along with unique lighting, I'm looking to find compositions that create a mood. Where both mood and composition come together, that's where I want to be.
Another technique in Plant's toolkit is perspective. Look closely at his images, and you'll notice he isn't always standing, but rather he's closer to the ground.
"I personally love the low-angle perspective," he says. "I try to get into the scene as much as possible, so I can effectively transport the viewer into the composition. Sometimes that means you have to get low and get close to your subject. I find this technique particularly helpful with landscapes, as it creates compositional tension between the foreground and background. It also can be helpful with wildlife, since it offers the viewer a sense of the environment where the animal lives."
Plant's cameras of choice include the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II for landscapes and the Canon EOS 20D when photographing wildlife from his kayak. He uses a combination of Canon and Sigma lenses. "Sigma has many innovative and high-quality lens choices that I find very appealing," Plant says, "including what I call my 'bookend' lenses: the Sigma 12-24mm wide-angle full-frame zoom and the 300-800mm telephoto zoom."
The Bay Of Light
Plant's latest book, Chesapeake: Bay of Light, has received rave reviews, including a recent write-up in the book section of The Washington Post. For Plant, this book is his signature piece and the one of which he's most proud. "I try to explore areas that haven't been photographed to death already," says Plant. "That's what was great about the Chesapeake project—there are very few nature photographers working the bay, and in the book I tried to photograph the bay in a way it has never been photographed."
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